What's next for school shooting suspect: Teens vs Kentucky law

Updated: Jan. 24, 2018 at 4:32 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - As the grieving process continues for the Marshall County High School victims and their loved ones, authorities have not yet publicly identified the 15-year-old suspect in the shooting; but his name quickly emerged on social media.

The teen suspect is facing two counts of murder and 12 counts of assault so he's automatically treated as an adult under Kentucky law.

"It's called an automatic transfer," retired Jefferson County Juvenile Court Judge David Holton explained.

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In Kentucky, and many other states, that means suspects 14 and older who commit felonies with a firearm, just like the teen at Marshall County High, automatically are pushed to Circuit Court and treated as adults everywhere except where they are held.

"The young man will be held for the foreseeable future in a youth detention center," Holton said.

The suspect will be kept with other juveniles until he turns 18.

Holton, who initiated the practice of taking cuffs off kids when he presided over juvenile court, said it's hard to imagine what went wrong in the school shooter's life. He said the demons that caused the young man to commit the crime forever changed his life, his family's, the victims and everyone at that school.  A place, Holton said, that should be sacred.

"It's so sad, that someone is going to be so selfish to take away this wonderful, happy place that I'm sure Marshall County High School was and hopefully can be again," he said.

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In Jefferson County, every child that comes through detention has an initial evaluation to gauge their stability. The judge explained that during his time on the bench, he's seen young people dealing with mental health problems, substance abuse issues, physical abuse and bullying on social media and in person.

"I had cases where kids were charged with shooting other kids because they would be on social media," Holton remembered, "just being kids or saying things kids shouldn't say, but they say it anyway. It is a very, very prominent part of our problems in the juvenile court system."

The judge made clear that it's very common for a juvenile in this kind of situation to become a danger to themselves before they're dealt with in a court of law. Holton said the young defendant has also not just impacted the lives of the victims and their families, but also greatly affected his own family.

Holton added, when heinous crimes like these happen, many times family members of a suspect have to move, especially when the crime takes place in a small town as it did Tuesday.

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